KARACHI: In a major operation, the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) on Tuesday removed 70 per cent of the encroachments on its land in Shireen Jinnah Colony by oil tankers. However, encroachments on City District Government Karachi (CDGK) land still remain.
These tankers, which supply fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan, are parked in the area because of proximity to the Keamari Oil Installation and National Refinery. The issue of oil tankers parking on KPT land as well as surrounding roads which come under the jurisdiction of the CDGK, such as Marine Drive Road, Khyaban-e Bedil and Shahra-e Ghalib, was brought before the Supreme Court by an affected resident in Clifton. The court had ordered the tankers, which have been parked in the area for five months, to move by May 9, a month from the day of the verdict.
According to KPT’s public relations manager Shafique Faridi, officials of the trust visited the area on April 20 to see if the tanker owners are making any arrangements to move. They also called a meeting with the Oil Tankers Association in which it was decided that the tankers would move in five days. Faridi says that the KPT distributed pamphlets in Urdu to ensure that all tanker owners were aware of the decision. However, when by Monday April 26 the tankers had not moved, KPT on early Tuesday morning started removing the encroachments, which included tea stalls and repair shops.
After most of them had been removed, the Oil Tankers Association asked for two more days to vacate the land. The KPT says that it wants to build a custom-made parking space for oil tankers on the vacated land, but the tanker owners are resisting the move. The tanker owners have also been allotted permanent parking on 200 acres in Zulfikarabad in the Thatta district but do not want to move there because of the distance. Presenting his side of the story, General Secretary of the Oil Tankers Association Haji Akram Durrani said, “We understand how inconvenient it is for the residents of the area, but until we get the KPT land promised to us, we have no choice but to park here.”
He added that negotiations with the government for a proper terminal have been going on for several years now. Another issue is that the KPT’s parking, when built, will only accommodate between 600 to 750 tankers while at the moment about 1500 tankers are parked in the area. The rest, according to what Chairperson KPT Nasrin Haque told APP, would be parked at Zulfikarabad. Meanwhile, the residents of Clifton are happy Shireen Jinnah Colony is being cleared of encroachments, hoping this means that their areas, which come under the CDGK, would also be soon clear of tankers.
Among their concerns are noise, pollution, rising crime rate and threat of terrorist attacks given that tankers supply fuel to NATO forces which occasionally come under attack. These concerns are leading to a fall in the value of real estate, the residents complain. “The drivers stay up all night creating a ruckus. Some are assembling their tankers’ spare parts in the garages nearby, while others play loud music,” Qasim Hidayatullah, chairperson of the nearby Chapel Resort Apartment’s association told The Express Tribune. Residents of other appointments in the vicinity, Sunrise, Sea Rock and Oyster View, also complain of being affected.
“Girls are unable to step out of the building without a male companion as they get harassed,” complained one resident. Moreover, encroachments on the roads mean that traffic flow is affected. “In case of an emergency, we can’t even drive fast as there is the danger of hitting a tanker,” said Hidayatullah. “We are living in constant fear. Even if one of the tankers explodes, the fire will spread to other tankers in minutes and engulf the entire area,” said another resident. Since the suspension of the local government system in February, former CDGK officers who were working on the issue are refusing to comment.
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